Wow, it’s 2017, the beginning of a new year! This is a great opportunity to look at the year ahead and make sure it’s as good as it can be. How?
A tragic accident, a stock market crash, or a spouse unexpectedly filing for divorce. Everyone at some point in life will experience a crisis. There is no way to avoid it when it happens and this is what makes it a crisis. So what is the best way to respond?
First of all, it is important to define the term “crisis”. Most experts on crisis theory will tell you a crisis state has three essential conditions: 1. An unexpected event, 2. A perception of the event that causes subjective distress, 3. The failure of a person’s usual coping methods.  This means that a crisis is a subjective experience that will affect people differently. Therefore, it is important to resist the temptation to determine what qualifies as a crisis. What may be one person’s normal experience may be another person’s crisis. It’s not about the event but how one responds to the event.
When we look to scripture, we see many godly men and women having to journey through a crisis state with the Lord. King David was one such man and reflects on his experience in Psalm 23:1-4:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The “valley of the shadow of death” is often what it feels like to go through a crisis. It can be a very dark, empty, and scary place. When someone is in crisis, they will talk about being scared, hopeless, or even wanting to die because life is too dark in the present. But it is also important to note that David sees this valley of death as a “shadow”. In other words, the idea that there isn’t life beyond a crisis isn’t true. It may feel that way at the time, but it isn’t true. In fact, David learned not to fear because God had been with him throughout the crisis moments in his life. So how should Christians respond?
1. Stay Centered on God’s Truth
A crisis will cause disequilibrium and confusion. This means our usual coping skills will be thrown off track. So it will be important to find a place of center. For Christians, this will be God’s word. It will be God’s word that provides stabilizing truth that brings both comfort and guidance. So if you are helping someone in crisis, give them a simple scripture that provides hope for their situation. Yes, your words can be comforting, but God’s word will be stabilizing. God has given us His word to shine light in darkness and provide direction when it’s hard to see (Psalm 119:105).
2. Take Practical Steps Forward
A crisis state will often cause someone to stall and resist moving forward. If you notice in Psalm 23:4, David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death. He wasn’t sitting or retreating, he was moving forward with the Lord. Life moves forward and it will be important for someone in a crisis state to begin moving forward after finding some stability in God’s word. Moving forward is not making life decisions, but simply getting dressed in the morning, getting out of the house, eating normal meals, etc. Now, this may seem hard at first, but it is important to force yourself to do it. Much like getting up and walking after surgery, healthy crisis recovery requires that you take practical steps to move forward in life. The goal is to move through the valley of the shadow of death, not to remain in it.
3. Be Prayerful Along The Way
One of the most difficult challenges in a crisis state is find emotional rest or comfort. Because the normal coping skills no longer work, anxiety and mind grind can be overwhelming. This requires supernatural intervention by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a). The Apostle Paul highlights this truth in Philippians 4:6-7:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When we pray, we place ourselves under God’s guarding and protection. We also make ourselves available to experience His supernatural peace even when things don’t make sense (i.e. a crisis state). So be diligent and persistent in making prayer the continued practice throughout a crisis recovery process. Enlist the prayer support of others as well.
Although a crisis state may redefine “normal” life as we know it, it can also be a time when we see God show up in some profound and powerful ways.
One final note, crisis recovery can be a very complex process depending on the severity of a situation. Please understand that this article is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion on the topic nor in any way negate the potential need for medical attention or professional intervention.
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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has been a debated topic among Christians for many years. Most recently, with the additional discussion about a 3-parent process, the debate has become more lively. Has science gone too far? Are we manipulating and controlling things that should be left only to God? Are we delving into areas that God never intended? How should Christian couples think through this topic?
It probably goes without saying but In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a process by which an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body: in vitro (“in glass”). It is then implanted back in the woman’s uterus with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy. IVF is described as an “assisted reproduction process”. It helps women get pregnant who can’t because of health issues within their reproductive system. It is an expensive process that seems to have an above average success rate. But what does God have to say about IVF?
I wish we could turn to an IVF passage in the Bible but we can’t so we need to think this through using other biblical truths.
1. God Created the Fertilization Process
Psalm 139:13-14 – For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
God created our reproductive system, the process, and how it works. God is also the one who created our bodies, how they function, grow, handle sickness, heal, etc. But when our bodies are struggling and not operating in a healthy way, we usually look to science and medicine to help.
2. God Supports Medicine to Keep Us Healthy
As far as I can see from scripture, there is nothing to indicate that doctors and medicine are off-limits for Christians. For example, the Gospel of Luke was written by a physician whose profession was both valued and acknowledged. Paul the Apostle highlights this when he sends greetings to the Colossian church.
Colossians 4:14 – Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.
We also see Paul providing medicinal recommendations in order to help Timothy with stomach problems (1 Timothy 5:23). The use of doctors and medicine in order to help our bodies function in a healthy way doesn’t seem to be a problem in scripture nor an issue of faith.
Therefore, if IVF is approached through the lens of helping an unhealthy reproduction system to function properly, it would be no different than having an endometrial ablation procedure to help an unhealthy uterus to function properly. In both cases, we are employing a medical treatment or procedure to keep us healthy and functioning normally.
Although IVF doesn’t readily violate any specific biblical truths, there are some potential problems that can arise if precaution isn’t taken. These typically occur when a medical procedure shifts from curing an ailment to accommodating a preference. For example, using a medical procedure to manipulate the sex, hair color, or eye color of an unborn child is no longer fixing a reproductive system problem. Things are now being manipulating in order to accommodate a preference or desire.
This is when sin can enter the equation and we overstep our role before God. This is when pride and discontentment can become the driving force and must be kept in check rather than redefining it as “better” science or “modern” medicine (see my blog post, Cosmetic Surgery & God).
I think it important to emphasize that as science and medicine continue to change and develop in the future, Christians will be challenged and need to consistently keep their motives in check by looking to God’s word for insight and direction. Otherwise, we all run the risk of simply following cultural cues and opinions rather than the Lord.
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Call it morbid or a topic no one wants to talk about, but one day you or a loved one will have to make arrangements for your body after you die. That’s right, the statistics are high, one out of one die and it will be a decision that everyone makes.
The popular choices today are either burial or cremation. If finances are an issue, the choice becomes pretty easy because cremation is 1/3 of the cost of burial. But what if money were no object? What would be your process for making a decision? Is there something more to consider? Does God have an opinion about this?
Here are a couple of truths from the Bible that may help you decide.
Remember God Created Your Body
Psalm 139:13 – For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
David’s prayer and song to God highlight the important truth that He uniquely created your body. He gave you a design, DNA and fingerprints that are unique only to you. There is no one like you! Your body is an important gift from God and it is a big part of what makes you who you are.
Of course, it is not the only thing, but it does play a big role. Scripture highlights that we are to take care of our bodies, respect them, and keep them healthy (Ephesians 5.28-30). This is important to remember when we are alive and when we die. This is honoring to God and shows gratitude for the gift He has given us.
A popular perspective when people die today is that “it doesn’t matter”, “do whatever you want with my body”, “I’m not there anyway”, etc. But how does this show dignity and respect for the gift God has given you? Jacob went to great lengths to make sure his body was handled in a way that honored God when he died (c.f. Genesis 49:29-33). So the issue isn’t whether we are present or not but one of respect and gratitude to God for the body he has given you.
This perspective will not only help you better navigate between cremation and burial but will also help you think through the best way you can show dignity and respect for your body when you die. Asking these kinds of questions will most likely create more questions about what happens to the body when it is cremated or buried. So it is important you also get the answers by asking those who are helping you make the arrangements.
Recognize Burial Models The Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:42b-44 – The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
Throughout the Bible, we see that burial was the preferred way to care for a dead body by God’s people. The only time cremation is mentioned is within the context of pagan cultures, warfare, or punishment. In the New Testament, burial came to model the resurrection of Christ, symbolizing a waiting on the future resurrection when every Christian will receive an eternal body from God (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). So in terms of Biblical precedent, burial is certainly the preferred method. This isn’t to say that cremation is wrong or a sin, we just don’t see this being modeled by God’s people. So where does this leave you? What do you think?
This is an important issue and one that most of us will have to think through. So when the topic does come up, make sure you not only put your decision through the lens of financial responsibility, but also consider the issues of dignity, respect, and Biblical precedent.
Note: This posting is to help you process your own funeral arrangements and not condemn what others have chosen or done in the past.
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Tell someone “The Bible says….” and you may get a look like “Who cares?”.
Quoting the Bible usually won’t help a discussion about God if you are talking to someone who doesn’t believe the Bible. It is sort of like talking to someone about a scientific theory when they don’t believe in science. It won’t work! This can make it especially challenging for Christians to share their faith because everything comes from the Bible!
Where do you start? Here are a couple of ways to help bridge the gap without having to become an expert in Biblical manuscript evidence.
1. Connect Bible Truth to Everyday Life
Psalm 19:1-4 – The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
It has often been said, “The Bible isn’t true because it says so, it says so because it’s true”. In other words, the truth of the Bible should be self-evident by how we experience it in everyday life. This is how we can talk about the God of the Bible without ever having to quote the Bible. For example, if you want to talk about the biblical truth of God being the creator and us being His creation, highlight how we see this same process taking place in everyday life. Highlight how people create things (e.g. music, poetry, painting, etc.) demonstrating a creator/creation model.
Or if you want to talk about God’s justice and judgment, highlight how society also functions according to this same biblical model (i.e. laws, penalties, legal system, etc). You get the idea? If the God of the Bible is the God of this world, then we should be able to see his fingerprints everywhere we look. You just have to look! The more you connect Bible truth to everyday life, the more you will help people begin to trust what the Bible has to say.
2. Encourage Questions & Accommodate Doubt
John 20:24-28 – Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.” … Jesus came and stood among them … Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
I love the story of doubting Thomas and his struggle with believing Jesus had risen from the dead. This is real! He wasn’t buying it, and he needed proof! Notice when Jesus showed up, He didn’t rebuke Thomas for his lack of faith or reject him for unbelief. Instead, Jesus accommodated Thomas’ doubt and provided him proof that He was alive.
It is so important that when we talk with people who don’t believe in God or the Bible that we don’t shut them down. We must be a safe place for them to ask their questions and share their doubts. In other words, if we approach people like Jesus did, we can have a significant impact on how they will ultimately view God and the Bible. So remember “how” you treat people can be really important for them in understanding “what” you are saying.
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What does the Bible say about working mothers? Should they be climbing the corporate ladder or staying home raising children?
In today’s equal opportunity world, where does the role of a working mother fall on God’s scale? How does the bible weigh in on this topic?
If you roll the clock back 50 years, we see culture clearly defining a mother’s role as being at home taking care of the kids, cooking and cleaning, while the dad goes to work and brings home the paycheck. Today, those lines have been blurred and, depending on the survey you read, between 60%-70% of mothers in the U.S. work outside the home while their children are in the home.
More and more, mothers are delegating their children to live-in nannies, day care facilities, and in-laws. Is this what God had in mind when he created motherhood? Here are a couple of thoughts that might help you work through this very relevant and debated topic.
1. Recognize Motherhood is a Divine Role
Psalm 139:13 – For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
The psalmist reflects on God’s divine plan to grow and build humanity through a mother’s womb. In other words, God gave women a divine role to procreate and fulfill His plan by having children (read my blog post, A Boy Named Sue). When you consider that the overall survival of humanity is contingent on women giving birth to children, it is pretty profound. No other job, career, or role in life will have this kind of impact or legacy.
So when culture tries to minimize the value and role of a mother by simply calling them “homemakers”, it’s important to remember that moms have a global impact that goes well beyond the limits of a home.
2. Keep First Things First…. Your Children!
When you read through the book of Proverbs, you will come across a very extensive description of a noble wife and mother. You will also quickly notice that she is also a businesswoman.
Proverbs 31:15 – She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
It is important to note that Scripture does not prohibit mothers from working outside the home. But it also important to note that the Bible assumes mothers are at home raising their children. In other words, if a mother is going to work outside the home, it is in addition to her raising her children, not replacing it.
If you take time to read Proverbs 31:10-28, you will see that scripture defines a godly mother as being someone who puts her children first and embraces her divine role as a mother before engaging in any outside employment endeavors. This keeps first things first, which are children.
Moms have the most important job on the planet that will leave a legacy for generations to come! To delegate this God-given role to others in order to simply bring in extra income or fulfill a career passion is to underestimate the value and importance of motherhood. If this is the case, it would be better not to have children, than to give them 2nd place.
What do you think? Please share your comments and insight on this topic.
Disclaimer: I recognize there are many extenuating circumstances that can play into this discussion (e.g. single moms, family tragedy, struggling economy, etc.), but in order to limit our discussion to a blog, I am simply addressing the topic in general.
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What do you think about the worship at your church? Do you like it? Why? Is it too modern, too dated, or just right?
For decades, the church has debated and battled over worship styles. Some want it loud, some want it soft, some want it exciting, some want it reflective, some want hymns, some want contemporary, some want a band, others want a choir. Who’s right, who’s wrong? What does God want?
Let’s look at two ways to think through the issue:
1. Don’t Make Music “Style” an Issue… God Doesn’t
Arguing over music styles is a slippery slope and is never an issue of right or wrong.
Over millennia we have seen the style of music used for worship change based on culture. If you look back to Israel and the book of Psalms, you see the music styles include tambourines and harps.
Psalm 81:1-2 – Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre.
During the early middle ages, the style became more monotone in nature without any musical instruments (i.e. Gregorian chant). During the 16th century, we see a completely different style emerge where melody and full instrumentation played a major factor. Later on, in the 18th century, it became popular for composers to use melodies of popular songs and change the lyrics to make them worship songs. This is when hymns and ¾ time signatures came about.
Now fast-forward to today and you have multiple styles ranging from pop to rock and country to reggae. As you can see historically, the different music styles have been a direct result of different time periods and this is how God has designed it.
Psalm 96:1-2 – Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
This is a very important perspective when it comes to worship wars because battling over music styles is a battle over culture, trying to make one time period better than the other. This, of course, doesn’t work generationally or internationally. We must recognize that God wants new, creative, and relevant worship music for all people for all time periods and there is no right or wrong.
2. Recognize Worship is Your Personal Responsibility
So often we blame worship leaders for not “doing a good job” in leading worship. This is usually based on their style or approach. But when we look at scripture we immediately see that we are all individually responsible for good or bad worship.
John 4:24 – God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
God is looking for worshipers who are devoted and spirit led. He doesn’t care about form and function but only adoration coming from the heart. This is what takes it beyond singing a song on Sunday and into our daily lives. If our hearts are in the right place, we can worship God in line at a grocery store, while driving down the street, or in a church with epic music. The environment shouldn’t matter since we are called to individually lead ourselves into worship!
Yes, the goal of every worship leader is to help you enter into a worship experience but if they don’t, that doesn’t mean you can’t worship. Mature Christians can worship anywhere and at any time. (c.f. Acts 16:23-25)
So the next time you are tempted to get into a worship debate, reflect on these principles and make worship a place of peace, not war!
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